The PMDD Punchbag - boxing gloves showing the pressure of PMDD on loved ones

The PMDD Punchbag

One of the most painful and long lasting side effects of PMDD is that which it has on our loved ones. Month in, month out we experience a litany of physical and psychological symptoms as our body has an abnormal reaction to normal hormonal changes. Even with ovarian suppression treatments, the female brain is so powerful, that it can continue to cycle. It is relentless and utterly debilitating. When we finally can take a breath during our asymptomatic days, we are exhausted by our battle with the beast and struggle to regain our sanity.

The impact this endless torrent of symptoms has on our partners and family is hugely underestimated and poorly understood. For a layman observer, the symptoms displayed by the sufferer are easy to see and as such can obscure the damage being caused to those who are at the sharp end of the disorder.

Threats and behaviours congruent with self-harm and suicide create a dark undercurrent to the relationships we have with those we live with and the family who are closest to us. Coupled with the anger, violence and the depression we experience, a toxic atmosphere cuts deeply into the fibre of the love that is shared.

I cannot recall the number of times I have asked for forgiveness for the cruel things I have said, or the threats I have made. I would ask my husband to tell me when he saw my symptoms starting, and I would promise to listen and remove myself from the situation, only for me to throw this back in his face when the anxiety and tantrums would set in.

Despite knowing what to expect on each day of my cycle, I would always feel woefully prepared for it, and would lean on him for reassurance and support. As time goes on, this need can become a burden, particularly when I would make no effort to pre-empt the next cycle and as such repeat my self-destructive behaviours.

For years I could only see that this was hurting myself. My low self-esteem and feeling of worthlessness acted as a barrier to me actively seeking external help, and instead of it being a self-inflicted punishment on myself, it became a form of domestic psychological abuse with me as the perpetrator.

My tantrums could become violent and unpredictable, I would threaten to self-harm or overdose, I would follow my husband around the house and scream at him to listen to me and to take care of me. In the heights of my PMDD this could go on for 7-8 hours at a time before exhaustion would set in. When I wasn’t angry, I would have extreme anxiety and rely heavily upon him to prop me up emotionally and to coach me through social situations. If ever there was a time to enjoy ourselves, I would try so hard that I would embarrass myself and us by being manic and socially unaware.

I had my total hysterectomy over two years ago, and following intensive Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprograming (EMDR), counselling, and now a referral to the Maudsley Female Hormone Clinic, I can finally say that I am able to regulate my emotions, be mindful of my mood and its effect on others and that I feel that I am starting to live my life and enjoy what the world has to offer.

My husband would tell a different story. The impact of my PMDD on him, his quality of life and his mental health is only now starting to reveal itself. As I become well, he is able to release the immense emotional and psychological strain that was put upon him.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can develop following exposure to a trauma. Commonly this is associated with a physical accident or attack, but can also be triggered by prolonged and repeated exposure to intense stress, watching a loved one live with a long-term or acute illness, or feeling isolated and alone whilst experiencing ongoing emotional abuse. Often PTSD as a result of the latter can present itself later and is known as Delayed-onset PTSD. 20% of people exposed to trauma go on to develop PTSD and whilst awareness is growing, accurate diagnosis and adequate treatment remains in the large within the private healthcare sector.

I’m not saying that my husband has PTSD, nor am I making sweeping generalisations and assumptions. I am however, challenging you to consider the secondary impact PMDD has on those around us. It is time that we as a society include our loved ones in the treatment regime for PMDD. They are our PMDD punching bag, our acute source of support, are often the ones that push us to seek help and work with us tirelessly on our journey to recovery for next to no thanks.

My husband said that he could see the woman I really was underneath it all, and that was what kept him going and kept our love alive. Now that I am that woman I must now turn my attention towards him and support him on his emotional and psychological recovery from PMDD.

References and sources of support/information:

International Association for Premenstrual Disorders:

Tracking your Cycle and Symptoms

PMDD Toolkit

PMDD Peer Support

PMDD Self-care and Safety Plan

Relationships and PMDD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD UK

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprogramming

The Maudsley Female Hormone Clinic